Monday, October 25, 2010

If you give kids a meaningful project...

they will take off with it and amaze you!

Angela Maiers dropped off a bag of tech stuff from AVerMedia for my class.  She told my students that they are to research it, learn about it, and teach her about it.  There's also a lovely contest with the company that will be an end result.

My students are so excited about this project!  We talked about how to go about it, they have divided themselves into diverse research teams based on their strengths and weaknesses, and plan to use their recesses and study halls to research.

The bag of tech includes a document camera, 4 student AVerPens, and 1 teacher AVerPen.   There's also directions for the document camera, but no directions for the AVerPens.  I haven't really given the kids any help besides showing them the company's website and being a guide in arranging times for the teams to work with the tech.

Today I was totally amazed!  Two teams had worked with the tech so far.  They'd figured out how to hook up the document camera and how to charge the pens.  I challenged the 3 teams working on the project today to really figure out how the AVerPens work.  They were getting caught up with trying to use them on the Promethean board we have in the room, so we had to talk about how the Promethean pens work just with the Promethean board.

We talked about how they needed an instruction manual for the pens.  I simply directed them to the AVerMedia website and pointed out where the manual might be.  They noted right away that on the downloads page there was also a link to software.  We had a quick discussion about what software is and they started to connect the dots! 

All three groups working on it today were digging into the instruction manual.  They got the pens working as a mouse on the computer!  I even had a student run up to the second floor to see how far the wireless signal of the pens can reach. The had some hiccups with downloading the software, but I think they'll be ready to go with it tomorrow.

This is kind of a rambling post, but it's just so exciting to see the project evolving in my classroom.  The kids want to stay in at recess to work on it.  They're in diverse teams (not necessarily with their friends) and are getting along.  They know we may not get the "prize" but have a desire to learn/play/explore.

This is a true, real life experience, with reading comprehension!  They are reading instructions and following them.

This is a true, real life experience, with writing.  The students are recording their findings in a variety of formats.  They are summarizing their work and making sure they can tell other groups what they have discovered.

This is true, real life, problems-based learning task.

I can't wait to share more as the project continues and as we record a video/commercial for AVerMedia.

What meaningful projects are you working to engage your students in?  

Friday, October 15, 2010

It's the little things...

I've been in a kind of a slump the past few weeks.  School has been bumming me out.  Frustration has been taking over.

I've done two little things in my room that have gotten me a tiny bit out of this slump.  They both come down to one little word.


1. During our study hall time, it can get loud.  I get grouchy.  So, I put together a Grooveshark playlist.  I asked each of the students to tell me a couple of their favorite (school appropriate) songs and made a list. I now play that in study hall and it's lightened the mood. It's also a lesson in tolerance of everyone's music tastes.

2. My students share about their independent reading with me once a week.  For the last three years, the students have turned in a letter written in their notebook in classic Fountas and Pinnell style.   Now I have 3 options for the students.  They can turn in their letter, record their response on our new Flip cameras from Digital Wish, or blog their response on our classroom blog.  I've already had 3+ students blog their responses and two students record their responses on the Flip.  I'm especially excited because the two students who recorded their responses on the Flip are students who usually have late letters.  I think the writing aspect of it was hindering them.

This week, my burdens and feelings of burnout have been lessenedChoice can be a little thing that can make a big difference.

What are some little things you do in your classroom to encourage choice?